Bag of 700 passport forms goes missing

December 22, 2006

Stephen Speckman,1249,650217060,00.html

A bag of about 700 passport applications is missing and a handful of Utahns are among the impacted applicants.

The bag was reported missing by the U.S. State Department on Dec. 1, when the applications were supposed to be shipped by commercial air from Los Angeles to the State Department's Passport Center in Charlotte, N.C.

"We've conducted a pretty comprehensive search," said Steve Royster, spokesman for consular affairs with the State Department. "We're continuing to work at locating them."

In the meantime, applicants including Matthew Schneider, 16, have been getting letters and phone calls from State Department officials. His father, Dave Schneider, the sports editor for the Deseret Morning News, is worried about identify theft.

"It's a concern for us when he does turn 18 and goes out and gets a credit card," Schneider said.

His son is planning a humanitarian trip for next year with a group headed to Kenya. The goal was to have a passport in hand by Feb. 1, in time to apply for a visa.

"He applied for (the passport) well ahead of time, so that's good," Royster said about Schneider's application.

Most of the applications in the missing bag appear to be from California and Texas, Royster said. He wouldn't speculate on just how many from Utah were in the bag, only that there weren't a lot.

Many of the applications listed detailed personal information, such as a Social Security number, address and phone number. Schneider's son included his old passport and original birth certificate with his application.

Royster said all of the affected applicants have been contacted. If they have questions or concerns, they were told to call the Office of Passport Services at 877-487-2778.

The State Department is covering the costs associated with the reprocessing of applications, which includes retaking photos. Royster said he didn't know how much the government will have to pay to cover those costs.

After contacting the applicants, no one has given any indication that their identity has been stolen, Royster said. Applicants are urged in a letter to monitor their bank statements, credit-card statements and other statements related to recent financial transactions. If anyone notices suspicious activity, they can call the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338.

State Department officials also notified all three major credit bureaus of the "potential" loss of sensitive data, Royster said. If the bag isn't found, the government is in the process of "making arrangements to initiate credit monitoring" at no cost to the applicants.

How long will the search for the missing applications last?

"That's hard to say," Royster said. "We're committed to looking for them."

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